New Orleans’ master songwriter Allen Toussaint may well be hanging with President Obama as you read this. Toussaint is one of twelve recipients of the 2012 National Medal of the Arts, which will be awarded on Wednesday night (July 10). The Oscar, LA-born author Ernest Gaines (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman) is also being honored this year, as are star director George Lucas, playwright Tony Kushner, comedy legend Elaine May and the Tijuana Brass man himself, Herb Alpert. According to the White House’s own website, Toussaint “has built a legendary career alongside America’s finest musicians, sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues and lifting it to the national stage.”
In other Toussaint news, he’s announced the release of his first album since 2009′s The Bright Mississippi-- a solo live album, Songbook, that was recorded on the accompanying 2009 tour. Instead of performing the jazz material from Mississippi, Toussaint did a personalized show that featured his stories and reflections alongside his classic tunes. The album and DVD will feature some of Toussaint’s most familiar numbers (“Mother-in-Law,” “Southern Nights”) alongside rarities like “Old Records” (written in the ’90s for Irma Thomas) and “New Orleans Thing,” one of the new songs that’s turned up in recent shows.Songbook will be out on Rounder September 24.
It’s already been a banner year for Toussaint, who was saluted by Thomas, Elvis Costello and other friends in a benefit concert during Jazz Fest. Toussaint’s next local appearance will be at Satchmo Summerfest on August 2.